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Social Sci LibreTexts

15.1E: Traditional Authority

  • Page ID
    8424
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    Traditional authority refers to a form of leadership in which authority derives from tradition or custom.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Compare patrimonial government with feudalism within the context of traditional authority

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Weber traced traditional domination back to patriarchs, their households, and the ancient tradition of family. In such systems, the master is designated in accordance with the rules of inheritance.
    • Patrimonial government occurs when the ruler’s household expands to governmental offices. All officials are personal dependents or favorites of the ruler, and are appointed by him.
    • Feudalism replaced the paternal relationship of patrimonalism with a contract of allegiance based on knightly militarism.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • feudalism: A social system that is based on personal ownership of resources and personal fealty between a suzerain (lord) and a vassal (subject). Defining characteristics of feudalism are direct ownership of resources, personal loyalty, and a hierarchical social structure reinforced by religion.
    • patrimonial government: A form of governance in which all power flows directly from the leader. The leaders of these countries typically enjoy absolute personal power.
    • tradition: A part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation, possibly differing in detail from family to family, such as the way holidays are celebrated.

     

    Traditional Authority

     

    Traditional authority is a type of leadership in which the authority of a ruling regime is largely tied to tradition or custom. In sociology, the concept of traditional authority comes from Max Weber ‘s tripartite classification of authority. In addition to traditional authority, Weber claimed that the other two styles of authority were charismatic authority and rational-legal authority. Weber noted that, in history, these ideal types of domination always seemed to occur in combinations.

    Weber traced traditional domination back to patriarchs, their households, and the ancient tradition of the family. In such systems, the master, almost exclusively an older father, is designated in accordance with the rules of inheritance. He has no administrative staff, nor any machinery to enforce his will by force alone. Instead, he depends on the willingness of subservient group members to respect his authority. They obey him based on the belief that this is their duty, sanctioned by tradition.

    Patrimonial government is related to this model, but is slightly different. This occurs when a patriarchal ruler’s household expands to governmental offices. In this style of leadership, all officials are personal dependents or favorites of the ruler, and are appointed by the ruler. Their interactions with the ruler are based on paternal authority and filial dependence. Military force is an important instrument of patrimonial rule. Patrimonial dominance has often prevailed in the Orient.

     

    Patrimonalism and Feudalism

     

    In comparison to patrimonalism, feudalism has one major similarity and several important differences. The similarity is that both are based on tradition and have powerful rulers who grant rights in return for military and administrative services. There are two important differences. First, feudalism replaced the paternal relationship of patrimonalism with a contract of allegiance based on knightly militarism. Second, in a patrimonial government, officials are personally dependent on the patriarch. In feudalism, these individuals are replaced with vassals, who have contractual freedom, personal allegiance, and socioeconomic prominence.

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    Louis XIV of France: Historically, kings have derived their authority from tradition.

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    King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud of Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, derived his authority from tradition.